07/19/2013 03:57 EDT | Updated 09/18/2013 05:12 EDT

Facebook Anti-Enbridge Sign Backlash Hits B.C. Village


A sign opposing the proposed Enbridge pipeline on the side of a grocery store in Burns Lake, B.C. is gaining support on Facebook after the Dogwood Initiative erroneously claimed the sign's owner was ordered by local government to remove it.

Gwyn's Green Grocer owner Gwyndolyn Nicholas erected the sign in support of the Lakes District Clean Waters Coalition, a local group opposing the pipeline. The sign shows a scenic mountain-and-water vista and reads: "Pure water. Wild salmon. No Enbridge pipeline."

The subsequent Facebook post of the sign and erroneous claims by the Dogwood Initiative — which also opposes the pipeline — has since been shared numerous times and has created a huge backlash from people angry with the village's supposed removal of the sign.

"So it's gone viral," Nicholas said.

But the Village of Burns Lake says it has not asked Nicholas to take down the sign, and only contacted Nicholas about it as part of its follow-up on complaints received from residents that the sign is offensive.

A statement released by the village on Friday said, "because of the complaint received, and the Village’s mandate to respond, the Village has asked that the property owner comply with the local signage bylaw."

According to the statement, Nicholas needs to submit a sign permit application and a letter of appeal, stating the case for the sign. Provided she does so in the allotted time, the matter will be brought before the council on August 20.

"This process would apply to any sign that was the subject of a complaint, regardless of the message," said the statement from the village.

For her part, Nicholas said she is startled the sign has created such a backlash toward the village and claims she was only trying to promote a positive dialogue.

"The mis-information has triggered a really inappropriate and unfortunate response, where the village is receiving all kinds of inappropriate, disrespectful and really awful language, that is completely not in following with what you would expect from someone approaching the village," Nicholas said.

The Village statement says anyone wishing to show support for the sign may email the mayor and council, which has already received "numerous communications on the matter to make a strong case."

The $5.5-billion Northern Gateway project aims to construct two pipelines stretching 1,177-kilometres from the Alberta oilsands to a tanker port on the North Coast of B.C. with the capacity to move 525,000 barrels of oil per day.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, which began holding public hearings in January, wrapped up in June and will deliver a final report to the federal government by the end of this year.

The B.C. government has officially expressed its opposition to a proposal for the Northern Gateway pipeline project, saying it fails to address the province's environmental concerns.

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